Archive for September, 2008

So far away

September 30, 2008

Nova Scotia issues only a single plate per car, which one affixes to the rear (Pennsylvania style). On a regular basis, I see the front ends of cars on which owners have maintained the original front plate, some more interesting than others. The most exotic to date I spotted several weeks ago on a car turning from Queen Street onto Spring Garden Road–a german luxury car (I think a Benz but my visual memory isn’t positive) bearing a Brazilian plate with an extra little tag that further qualified it as haling from Rio de Janeiro.

Today, on Morris street, there’s a big ol’ SUV parked curbside that has matching plates front and back: Washington state. The plate rim shows it was bought in Bellevue, which would be an impressive haul to here, if they drove it the whole way.

The passenger train line in Canada has its eastern terminus here, another marker of so much now being so far away (but I recognize I didn’t attach that to the rail line when I lived in Oakland, at the terminus of the Transcontinental Railroad…).

And lately, it’s been hard to find any airline ticket out of here that is a direct flight to wherever else I might be going, another sign, for me, that this is far away.

All so serious

September 29, 2008

I started this blog to address two interests: to keep in touch with all the folks I have left when I moved to Nova Scotia and to amuse my friends with my efforts at obtaining a driver’s license. There is a whole lot I never discuss here, including my job, but, way more importantly, the state of the world. From time to time, I feel a certain amount of guilt over seeming to ignore the latter–so many important matters are there and I don’t address them here.

I see this as a necessary self-editing. I hope you all understand and know that just because I say nothing here certainly doesn’t mean that I’m not thinking and speaking and listening about the ramifications of the Big Issues. I also hope that my silences on these matters here acts as a reminder that we never see all that anyone else is thinking, feeling, knowing or wondering.

Drinking

September 28, 2008

Kyle seems to be strolling its way here but the warning map looks ominous this afternoon, even though the tree just outside my window is fluttering its leaves, rather than shaking them.

Out and about for much of the weekend, ever in anticipation of being stuck indoors when the weather finally turns rough, I kept being the unwitting party to hearing the drinking plans of local students. There seems to be a conscious demarcation made here between “having a drink” and “going drinking,” the latter activity amounting to a plan to get plastered. Certainly, this plan seems to be a shared one from what I hear at 4 am every Sunday, the hour at which the cabarets have spilled the last drinkers into the road and they herd along the street.

Meanwhile, I receive brief email references to drinking from my newly college-enrolled son: he skipped the “tea party” that was in service to vodka quaffing and has found Pimms to be tasty although, as it was served to him last week with strawberries and mint leaves, rather too summery for September in Scotland.

Presumably, the late weekend arrival of the hurricane will mean everyone has recovered sobriety to the extent needed to batten hatches as needed.

Sidewalk madness

September 27, 2008

The blue pipe project on Fenwick (which is actually related to a sewer pumping project intended to rectify the overflowing station at Inglis and Barrington has made the sidewalks there a litter of crushed gravel mounded over PVC, coasting down from the bottom steps of stoops, and flying in the wind of every very slowly passing car. (There is very little car traffic at all, due to the street-wide pits and high count of excavating equipment in the road).

Meanwhile, along South Street, there is no sidewalk at all as it’s been dug and sacrificed to the project as well. A bit further north, along South Park, a temporary boardwalk has been built, complete with railing, to help pedestrians detour over tree root hillocks now that the sidewalk itself has been fenced off in preparation for moving (tearing down?) three Victorians that are to be replaced with a 19-storey apartment complex. This boardwalk undulates gently, sticking to the curves of the earth, making it slightly humourous now, but what will it be like when icy in three months?

Design and viewer, symbol and reader

September 25, 2008

Several years ago, I read a compelling little book on the history of that design we now call the swastika and how its use by the Nazis has placed it beyond the designer’s pale. As a design configuration, it appeared in a wide span of cultures across thousands of years; today, many people in many cultures read it as loaded with its Nazi use.

This comes to mind because of the recent spate of pink triangles I’ve seen on display here. First, I saw it used as the trail marking along the path we took at Mt. Uniacke a couple weeks back. Today, at the ferry terminal, one of my fellow passengers–a rough and ready sort of fellow past middle age, was wearing a nylon windbreaker, black with a large pink triangle under each arm and spanning chest to shoulder blade. In both cases, the triangles were presented base up, tip down, the ratios of angles similar to the badge designed by the Nazis to label gays. In neither the case of the trail markings nor the man’s jacket do I believe that gay-friendly–or gay posting–was intended. I bring that reading to a design and turn it into a symbol.

To balance off one particular strain of dialectic, I must note something completely different, equally baffling (to me) and probably as unintended (by some designer). Further along my way home, after the ferry, I passed, as I often do, Province House. Out of the ordinary today is that it is hung with red, white and blue bunting–symbolic drapes, to my eye, that scream formal US patriotism. Am i seeing something that isn’t there? Or is there a symbolic text indeed, but I am illiterate in its regard?

Autumn on the calendar

September 24, 2008

I’ve been promised that autumn is beautiful here and, so far, it is living up to that. Only a few trees have begun to turn–a red maple here and some yellow chestnut leaves there. The few chestnuts that have fallen have done so in their full, green-spiked armour, not yet released to show off their glossy brown.

The skies have been radiant before midday and into the evening, although dawn is quite cold, really almost at the freezing point. It is, as promised, more dramatic and engaging than the fleeting spring, on the other side of the calendar’s clockface.

The harbour lies flat, although there seem to be a large number of large cruise ships flocking this week, perhaps on autumn “colour” tours?

In the yard, the grass seems to have slowed its growth, and the flowering plants are turning leggy under their last blossoms. At the florist shop, chrysanthemums prevail, although there are some sunflowers as well.

I’ve missed this season almost as much as winter; it’s a joy to have it back.

An open sort of border

September 23, 2008

Because I tend to be a creature of habit, I go to work and leave work, to the ferry, pretty much on an unvarying path. Bob called and said he’d meet up with em on the Dartmouth waterfront this evening and so we ended up re-entering Alderney Landing via a different door than those I’ve used regularly.

It was a beautifully bright late afternoon. We’d walked around, south of Alderney for a bit and then headed back to take the ferry west. Some boats were moored just beyond the building and I noticed one was from Maine. We were about to go into the ferry terminal, which sits cheek by jowl with a Tim Horton’s. That’s when i saw the sign affixed to the wall–just a plain metal sign, with block letters, brief message, phone number that didn’t bother with an area code (Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island share one of those between them).

“Notice to those arriving in or returning to Canada. Call Canada Customs at 4XX-XXXX.”

Although it’s rather obvious really, i just had never copped to the fact that one can, indeed, arrive at my office doorstep from beyond the country. It’s on the harbour, stupid. Give us a jingle if you’ve just crossed over???

Giants in the harbour

September 22, 2008

Last evening we walked over to the Halifax Ale House, by way of Citadel Hill, just as the Queen Elizabeth II, on her final voyage here, filled the skyline. She’s off to Dubai after this cruise, to become a staged hotel.

We were going east on Sackville Street, about ten blocks from the water, just high enough up the grade that the buildings going down to the east seemed to close to a span so narrow that the frame created was dwarfed by the ship’s presence, blotting out the harbour entirely from view.

Today, a container ship, fully loaded, came charging up the harbour at what seemed an exorbitant rate of speed. This time I was stationed on the Dartmouth side, just across from the Navy piers, and that ship almost dwarfed the ships there. Perspective–especially perspective on the water from the land–is such a tricky matter.

Weekend discoveries

September 21, 2008

We’ve been enjoying gorgeous weather this weekend, although it’s cooler than recent months. That touch of cool led Bob to decide to close the hallway window yesterday. Our windows are frightfully ancient and in need of repair. New frames are on order, but he decided to close them yesterday.

Fortunately, he wasn’t home alone when he acted on that decision. The sash gave way and he found himself with seven digits caught between the upper and lower panes. He could not extricate them and, at first, neither could I, even using a lever to widen the gap.

This was when we discovered that 9-1-1 works with great expediency here. And not only with expediency, but also with a kind of informal ease I’ve never experienced from emergency responders before. Bob has all his fingers back–albeit one punctured and all still tender–and they were on their way again with no forms to sign or lectures given.

To play it safer today, we hiked outdoors, where the windows are truly out of reach (One of the more frightening aspects for me yesterday was that he got himself hung by the hands while standing atop a chest, adding a climbing and possible falling element to the rescue process). We went to Pt. Pleasant Park, but the Prince of Wales Tower wasn’t open. We walked on to where the path splits between tracking over to the Northwest Arm and heading back along the beach that is cheek-by-jowl with the container shipping terminal and then Halifax Seaport. This latter route is one of the most diversified views of any city I’ve seen: the leisure aspects of swim cove and picnic benches literally feet away from the stacks of bonded containers and cranes, all in the shadow of the acres of woods of the park.

All in all, today’s discoveries seem more engaging than yesterday’s, but I am no less grateful for yesterday’s surprise feature of excellent public service.

Locally grown is astonishing

September 20, 2008

The best blueberries I’ve ever eaten seem to grow here in Nova Scotia and I have been making like Sal and her bear friend for several weeks now. We’ve also eaten away a season of local corn on the cob, and now the Nova Scotia apples are arriving.

We haven’t been buying imported produce (except pineapple and avocado). An array of winter squashes are now appearing and today we even found a bag of beets–ready to clean and bake–that had traveled about 100 km to the store from the farm.

But tomatillos? to date, this stands as the most unexpected Canadian harvest item. (They were also too big to look delicious, saving me from having to make enchiladas suissa this weekend).